Praying during COP26 in Glasgow

Invited by Glasgow Churches COP26 Coordinating Committee to prepare and lead times of prayer for young people in Glasgow during the COP26 gathering, two Taizé brothers were in the city from 7 – 12 November, 2021. Here they share something of their experience and the reactions of some people they met.

Preparing everything by Zoom alone was something new! A group of people involved in youth pastoral ministry from different Churches and student chaplaincies, lay people, priests and ministers gave time and energy to set in motion what we hoped would be an opportunity for those in Glasgow during the conference to place before God the concerns raised by the climate emergency.

Reaching London from Taizé via the Eurostar, King’s Cross railway station was emblazoned with banners welcoming people to the UK for the COP26 gathering in Glasgow and thanking them for travelling by train. For journeys of less than 1500km, our community tries as far as possible to travel by land rather than air. From Taizé, Glasgow is just short of that distance, so the decision was made.

We arrived in Glasgow late on Saturday 6 November. In the afternoon, a huge demonstration of 120,000 people had marched peacefully through the rain to call for urgent action faced with the climate crisis. Faith groups walked together and made up a large block. Though unable to take part officially in the COP26 gathering, they were very present throughout the week.

Photo Taizé
A warm welcome from the priest of the Immaculate Conception parish in Maryhill introduced us immediately to two young delegates from Malawi invited by SCIAF – Scotland’s Caritas – also staying there, who told of their engagement in COP26 and the effect of climate change in their country, one of the poorest in the world.

Having taken part in the Delegates’ Mass at St Aloysius’ Church and the Ecumenical Service at the High Kirk the next day, our week of prayers began on Monday. Five midday prayers around the University – in the Catholic Student Chaplaincy, the Memorial Chapel and Wellington Church – and four evening prayers in different churches of the city – Immaculate Conception parish, the High Kirk, Sherbrooke Mosspark parish and St Aloysius on Rose Street – contributed to the web of prayer woven around the conference.

In the different prayers, a mixture of young and not so young people, together with some of the delegates, were joined by others following the online broadcast (lockdown livestreaming helped us with this) from many countries. Here are a few reactions from people who came to the prayers:

“Almost a year of monthly planning meetings on Zoom and many, many emails and we did it: Taizé worship was part of the best at and around the COP26! The best? The networking of young and not so young activists, meaningful worship and raising awareness about the climate crisis. 

It was a privilege and a pleasure to do this together as the Taizé and the Iona Communities. Both communities are committed to peace, justice and environment. Both have young volunteers from all around Europe and the world staying and working together at the centres - very often the very same people. Both sing and worship. So, it was a perfect fit and hopefully will lead to further collaboration in the future! Perhaps we will start with bringing some young people from Scotland to Taizé next year.

During the time before the event in Glasgow satellite vigils and services with Taizé chants were organised and prayers written by former Iona volunteers and staff from Paraguay, Uganda, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Europe and America. During the COP26 Iona musicians added their voices and musical instruments in the Taizé worship. The camper van which was “home away from home” on Iona became “a Brethrenmobile” transporting the icons, the cross and the brothers. And on the fun side: both the Iona musicians and the Taizé brothers went to the wrong St Aloysius church and they even didn’t travel there together! Google maps cannot always be trusted… But the right church was found and everything was well in the end!

It was a joy to hear from people in Glasgow that they had discovered Taizé worship for the first time and loved it! Some travelled from one service to the next following them around the city. I remembered my first encounter with the Taizé songs at the Underground Church -literally underground in a cellar - during the Soviet occupation of Latvia and how they touched, sustained and moved me. They stayed with me ever since throughout my life and I hope they will do so in many Scottish lives as well!”


Urzula Glienecke, member of Iona Community


Midday prayer, Memorial Chapel, Glasgow University. Photo Taizé

"It was very important for me to attend both the Taizé prayer and other prayers during the weeks. To give thanks, to pray and cry and to feel that you are part of a worldwide community.
 
From what I saw during the negotiations, what is lacking is both prayers and a more spiritual and theological discussion on the relation between human and nature. Climate can not be reduced to a technological and systematical issue but, according to me, has to be perceived as an existential issue that addresses the human relation to the creation. To see religious leaders and youth attending the COP26 gave me hope of this.
 
Since my arrival back home I have been trying to cope with the frustration I experienced during the COP26. Furthermore, to leave Glasgow and an arena where everyone talked about climate change and to arrive in Sweden meeting people who don´t really care has also been quite difficult. But an important experience. The spectrum of engagement for the creation is very broad and I am now trying to notice every step that is being made in order to strengthen my hope"

Amanda Björksett, delegate

“Bishop Graham Usher from Norwich and I have put out a joint response to the COP which you can read on this page [http://cofe.io/COP26Response] . And I expect I will be writing further about it. But my headline challenge is the spiritual one. We have, in the rich North, been gulled over the last century and a half to believe that greed is a good thing. It underpins our entire economic system which is predicated on our desire for ‘more’. There is an unchallenged assumption that ‘growth’ in the economy is good.

We need to challenge this and to return to an understanding of how much is enough, modelled and encouraged so beautifully by the Taize community. There is a lot that can be unpacked around this, but I think that is my headline!”<


Right Reverend Olivia Graham (Anglican Bishop of Reading)


Photo Taizé

“I believe it was John Paul II, who said that Taizé is the place, where one comes to a source to drink and continue on her/his journey. COP26 is similar, as it brings various stakeholders together (divided into the Parties - all those who sign official documents emerging from the COPs and everyone else called in the UN-language NSA: Non-State Actors) together and supports them in agreeing on the common vision to come back home to make this vision a reality.
 
I am so grateful to the Taizé Community for joining us in Glasgow - the prayers were the place to charge batteries, slow down, think and above all, be with God. Even when together with Maria Virginia we were not able to join the prayers due to COP26 commitments, we were uplifted by knowing that we are one in prayer.
 
In short, without Taizé’s presence in Glasgow and the prayers, I am sure COP26 would have been a much more difficult experience, as together with the Climate Champions Team we were focused on the NSA representation, farmers in my particular case. For this and for everyone’s prayers, I am grateful.”

Mateusz Ciasnocha (Poland), delegate


Vigil Prayer St Aloysius’ Church, 11 November, photo ©"Being Catholic"

COP26 is not finished. It’s up to us to put what was agreed into practise and maintain awareness of the climate emergency. We cannot separate our care for each other from our care for Creation. Everything is linked. Everything is fragile. We share a common home.

To watch a recording of the Prayer Vigil at St Aloysius’ Church on November 11, 2021, click here [https://vimeo.com/643168705].
To read an article on the Church of Scotland website about these prayers and the follow-up in Scotland follow this link [https://churchofscotland.org.uk/news-and-events/news/2021/articles/young-people-encouraged-to-take-part-in-life-changing-visit-to-taize].
To read an article (in French) that appeared in "La Vie", the French Catholic Weekly, about COP26, click here.



Photo Taizé

Printed from: https://www.taize.fr/en_article29861.html - 5 December 2022
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